1) Worthless pursuits and malicious gossip can only lead to poverty in the end. Pride also causes poverty. The remedy is to give charity, which brings blessing and prosperity (4:8).

2) Immorality can deprive a person of his livelihood (7:5).

3) Intense prayer makes one worthy of one's livelihood (9:2).

4) The less careful a person is about upholding his moral standards, the more unpleasantness and hardship he will experience in his efforts to earn a living (11:4).

5) In order to draw God's providence upon ourselves completely, it is necessary to break the desire for wealth. The way to do this is by giving charity. When a person gives money to charity, it cools his urge to acquire. He will conduct his business affairs truthfully and honestly, he will be satisfied with his portion in life, and he will have pleasure and contentment from what God has blessed him with. Because he is not desperate to get rich, he is free of the constant struggle to make extra profit. The burden of this struggle is the fulfillment of the curse: `by the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread' (Genesis 3:19). Giving charity frees a person from this. It is accounted to him as if he had made an offering of incense before God (13:1).

6) The desire for wealth is literally a form of idol-worship. So long as it continues to exist, the world is under the shadow of God's anger. But the more completely it is uprooted, the more God's anger is lifted and the world radiates with the blessing of His love. The messianic spirit begins to spread; understanding springs forth, and it is as if the Holy Temple had been rebuilt. New horizons of Torah are revealed, the Torah that is destined to be revealed in time to come (Ibid. 2-5).

7) People who are obsessed with the idea of getting rich lack faith in God's power to send man his livelihood with little effort on his part. Instead they get involved in all kinds of complicated enterprises in the struggle for extra profit. Only after great toil and anxiety do they eat their daily bread. They are constantly worried and depressed. They have attached themselves to the `countenance of the forces of the Other Side' -- the domain of darkness, depression, idolatry and death. It is completely different for those who go about their work in a spirit of faith and trust in God. Having decided to content themselves with what they have, they are happy with their portion regardless of what it may be. They know and believe with perfect faith that God alone is the source of man's wealth and income, except that He desires that man should make some small movement of his own to initiate the chain of events that will bring his income to him. People like this are attached to the light of God's countenance, which is the realm of radiance, life and joy (23:1).

8) A person who is sunk in his craving for wealth is not just enslaved to one kind of idolatry, but to every single idolatrous cult belonging to all of the seventy nations of the world. This is because all forms of idolatry are rooted in materialism. Again and again the Shechinah cries out in pain because of these idolatries. `Woe for the pain in my head! Woe for the pain in my arm!' (Sanhedrin 46) There are seventy cries (corresponding to the seventy nations) for the pain in the head, and seventy for the pain in the arm, making one hundred and forty. This corresponds to the gematria of Mamon (money), which is 140.

9) Another way of breaking the desire for wealth is to contemplate the spiritual source from which material wealth and blessings flow. By concentrating on this root, the desire for material wealth is dissipated. Because here at the root, radiant with translucent light, the joy is purely spiritual. By comparison the object of the craving is very degraded. Only a fool would throw aside spiritual joy for the sake of some crude pleasure. But the only way to attain this spiritual perception is through self-purification, as it is written: `And from my flesh will I perceive God' (Job 19:26). Only when a person has sanctified himself and his body can he contemplate Godliness. This explains why the basic remedy for the desire for wealth is through fulfillment of the Covenant. When a person achieves this, he will not fall into this desire (Ibid. 5).

10) Whenever a person falls from his level, the fundamental reason is always the desire for money. This is basically why people fall into heresy and idolatry. For the same reason when the enemies of the Tzaddik stir up opposition against him and God wants to chase them away, He causes them to fall into lust for money. There is no greater fall than this. As a general rule, in times of controversy and strife, the greater the purity with which a person guards the Covenant and the closer he is to the Tzaddik, who is the embodiment of the Covenant, the greater his power to resist his opponents and throw them down. And when they fall, it is into lust for money. For this reason a person who finds himself involved in a dispute should be very careful not to succumb to the temptations of wealth (Ibid. 3).

11) The mitzvah of mezuzah is a remedy against the lust for money. When you observe this mitzva carefully your livelihood will fly into your hands! (Ibid. 4).

12) As long as a person is reluctant to spend money on the mitzvot he performs, his mitzvot are deficient because they have not yet entered the category of true faith, which gives them their perfection. But when a mitzva is so precious in his eyes that he does not mind parting with his money and he spends liberally for the sake of the mitzva, this is called Faith. Because the essence of a person's faith is seen in his relation to money. When he breaks his desire for wealth he becomes attached to the `countenance of holiness' (Ibid. 5).

13) People who are sunk in the desire for wealth are always in debt. We can actually see this. When people are dissatisfied with what they have they start trying to speculate -- and saddle themselves with a mighty burden of debt. They borrow from others in the hope of making big profits from the investment. But in the end they die as debtors. And even if they are not literally in debt when they die, they are always effectively in debt to their own lusts, as we can see. There are many people who have more than enough to cover their needs. Yet they spend all their days chasing after profit. They are prepared to struggle and submit to all kinds of risks and inconvenience just for the sake of money. In fact they behave exactly like someone with real debts strung around his neck -- except that their only real debt is the debt they owe to their desires, which are so demanding that it is as if they really did owe an enormous sum. In effect they are debtors all their lives, and they die in debt to their desires. Even a whole lifetime is not long enough for them to pay off the debts they owe to their desires, because there is no limit to them, for `No one in this world achieves even half of what he wants before he dies.' (Koheleth Rabbah, 1) All their days they are depressed, worried and bitter because of their appetite for money. The more money people have the more depression and worries they have, because they are entangled in idolatry, which is the very source of depression, darkness and death. Their money eats up the days of their life with problems and worries (Ibid.). 14) You should realize that it is nothing but a `fool's game' when people make money dishonestly or refuse to give any of their money to charity. (Our Sages laid down that we should give between a tenth and a fifth of our net income to charity in lieu of the priestly tithes.) It is a `fool's game,' because the money plays with them as one amuses a little child with coins. And in the end the money itself kills them. The Tikkuney Zohar speaks about this game of the fool. `Who is the fool? It is the `other god,' the child's croop. It smiles at them with the allure of wealth in this world, and then it kills them. Why is it called a `child?' Because those who are trapped in it do not have the sense to escape from it' (Tikkuney Zohar 140a). The way to escape the allure of wealth is through the purity of the Covenant and by drawing closer to the Tzaddik, who is the embodiment of purity and of whom it is written, `He who is good and walks before God will be saved from it' (Eccl. 7:26). The Tzaddik possesses true wisdom and understanding, and knows how to escape this trap. Even the greatest of men need deep wisdom and understanding if they are to escape the pain and toil which can be involved in trying to earn a living. Most ordinary people suffer terrible bitterness all their lives because of this. They lose both worlds, this world and the World to Come. There is no limit to the bitterness of this world. As the Holy Zohar says: `Were it not for salt the world could not endure the bitterness' (Zohar I, 241b). [Salt has the property of neutralizing bitterness.] Were it not for the strength of the Tzaddikim, who observe the Covenant with absolute purity and who are called the `eternal covenant of salt' (Numbers 18:19), the world would not be able to endure at all because of the terrible bitterness caused by the desire for wealth. The closer a person comes to the Tzaddik, the more he can sweeten this bitterness. But those who are far from the Tzaddikim and from personal purity, and especially those who are actually opposed to the Tzaddikim, will be the victims of the full force of this bitterness. How many are sunk in this! Pay heed to these words and perhaps you will escape (Ibid.)

15) With every step that a person takes and every word he utters in his efforts to make a living he should have in mind that his purpose in making a profit is to be able to give money to charity. Charity is the tikkun for business activity (29:5).

16) Only a person who `hates covetousness' (Exodus 18:21), which means that he absolutely hates materialism, can acquire true wisdom and understanding and thereby reach a perception of Godliness. And so the opposite (30:4).

17) When a person conducts his business honestly and with faith, his soul -- his mind and intellect -- is renewed through this faith. Through the business activity itself he can develop spiritually and draw fresh wisdom and a new soul from the light of God's countenance. Not everyone is on such a level of Torah scholarship that he can grow intellectually in Torah through his business. But even so, simply by virtue of conducting his business in faith and honesty, a great tikkun is brought about, and a second Jew whose soul is drawn from the same root as his own can benefit greatly, because his intellect is refreshed and expanded through the honest dealings of the first and he is inspired with new energy to learn and devote himself to God (35:6).

18) The whole body of Torah law dealing with business affairs is relevant to practical business activity. Anyone who wishes to conduct his business with faith and honesty must be expert in all the laws of business in order not to slip up in any of them (Ibid.).

19) A person who genuinely wants to conduct his business with faith and honesty must guard his faith very carefully from any possible flaw. He must be as scrupulous as Rav Safra, (see Makhoth 24a) and he must `speak the truth in his heart' (Psalms 15:2). Even if he merely decided something in his heart, he must not change it later on. If he guards his faith carefully his soul and intellect will be refreshed and renewed through his faith (Ibid. 7).

20) When a person conducts his business with faith and honesty, it is as precious as the daily offerings and incense brought in the Holy Temple, which caused the husks to fall away and all the sparks of holiness trapped within them to ascend. His mind is elevated and refreshed, and it is accounted as if the Holy Temple had been rebuilt in his time (Ibid. 8).

21) The main reason for the economic hardships which have hit the Jewish people in recent generations is that many of the shochetim, the ritual slaughterers, have not been worthy. The blessing which a worthy shochet makes at the time of slaughtering is a powerful influence on the livelihood of the whole Jewish people. The blessing elevates the living soul which was incarnated in the animal. But there are shochetim who fail to concentrate properly on the meaning of the blessing and harbor improper thoughts. A shochet like this, standing with the knife raised ready to slaughter the animal, is no better than a murderer. What pain this living soul experiences at this moment. She cries with a bitter wail, because the blessing this shochet makes will do nothing to elevate her from her incarnation. On the contrary, she will be cast down even lower than before and she will have `no rest for the sole of her foot' (Genesis 7:8). Woe to such a shochet! Woe to the soul he has killed and given over to the hands of her enemies. The result is that people's livelihood is hit, and the little that is available can only be acquired with great toil and exertion. Shochetim like these cause the soul to be enslaved by the materialism of the body, and physical lusts and desires gain strength. When the shochetim are worthy the soul is elevated and the grossness of the body is crushed and humbled. The body is the seat of animality, folly, darkness and death, forgetfulness, harsh justice and alien ideologies. In their place, soul and form are elevated. These are the roots of all that is truly noble in man -- understanding, light, life, memory, lovingkindness... in short, the wisdom of Torah. Through them the world is blessed with abundance and prosperity (37).

22) A person should always feel contented with what he has. He should take no more from the world than is absolutely essential. He should not live in luxury like so many people do today because of our many sins. People who lack this sense of contentment are referred to in the saying that `the belly of the wicked shall want' (Proverbs 13:25), because they are always in need of something. A man should be contented with what God has given him, and even out of this minimum he should still contribute a portion to charity. This brings about great unification in the worlds above, and the world is blessed with abundance (54:2).

23) The effect of trade and commerce is to cause all kinds of goods and materials to move around from one set of hands to the next. All the complex movements backwards and forwards depend entirely on the sparks of holiness within the objects themselves. There are times when a certain object has to pass from one person's hands to another's and then return to the hands of the first. The determining factor is the Divine sparks within the objects and their relation with the Divine soul and spirit of the individuals concerned (Ibid.).

24) Craving for money puts power into the hands of the forces of wickedness -- the domain of Haman the Amalekite, who constantly harries the side of holiness, the vital source of which lies in the wisdom of Torah. In direct opposition to this, the forces of wickedness constantly hunger after money, swallowing the sparks of holiness hidden in the money and rooted in the supernal colors. The more a person breaks his lust for money and draws closer to the wisdom of Torah, the more he releases the holy sparks from the forces of wickedness. The power to achieve this is drawn from the Tzaddikim, who are truly devoted to Torah. They have the power to humble the forces of wickedness and release all the trapped sparks and make of them Torah (56:5).

25) The deeper a person is sunk in desire for wealth, the less his understanding and the shorter his days will be. He will never hear the voice of the Torah, which calls on men constantly to return to God. He will be forced to toil for his living, and it will come to him only with great difficulty. But if he strives determinedly to deepen his understanding and think only thoughts of Torah, ignoring his desire for wealth completely, his livelihood will begin to come to him easily and he will hear the voice of the Torah calling and beckoning. The `voice of the Torah' is the good thoughts which rise constantly in a person's heart with the idea of returning to God. In the end he will be worthy of returning to God in truth (Ibid.).

26) The depression which descends on a person when he has to struggle excessively for a living is the `filth of the serpent.' All the limbs of the body become heavy, and the vital spirit which pulsates in the body -- the very basis of life -- is weakened. The weaker it becomes, the heavier the limbs become, and they in turn weigh down the spirit even more. This vicious cycle can actually bring a person to the point of death. The root of the syndrome is the struggle for money, which is the source of anxiety and depression. But when a person sighs with longing for the holy, moaning out of yearning for God, it helps to rally his strength and revitalize the pulsating spirit within him, bringing new vigor and life. In the end he will attain profound understanding and hear words from Heaven itself (Ibid. 9).

27) Anger can be very harmful to a person's livelihood. You should know that when the evil inclination starts tempting you to get angry, at that very moment a flow of blessing is descending from above with a certain sum of money intended for you. The evil inclination wants to thwart this blessing with the anger it tries to provoke in you. This is because anger is so damaging to the flow of blessing. Even a person who already possesses money can lose it if he becomes angry (68).

28) The prohibition against robbery is very serious because a person who robs another robs him of his very children. Even if the victim does not have any children as yet, the robber can bring it about that he never will have. And if he does have children, the robber can cause him such damage that the children will die, God forbid, as a result of his having robbed him of his money (69).

29) One who robs another will end up having all kinds of sexual temptations (Ibid.).

30) At times the thief himself can end up losing his wife because of his crime, and at times he can cause the victim to lose his wife (Ibid.).

31) A person can come to possess stolen property without even physically stealing it himself. It is possible to rob one's neighbor merely by being jealous of what he has. This is why the prohibition against envy and covetousness is so grave. Through envy alone one can rob one's neighbor of his money and the soul of his sons and daughters, just like an actual thief (Ibid.).

32) Giving charity can make amends for any money which has come into one's hands improperly because of envy. But for money which has literally been stolen there is no remedy except to return it to its rightful owner, or, in cases where it is impossible to return it to its owners to devote it to the public good, as our Rabbis explained (Bava Kama 94b) (Ibid.).

33) If a person finds the money he has to live off is too little for his needs, the best thing to do is to make it into charity. Charity is the tikkun for material possessions. In the end he will have plenty of money (Ibid.).

34) A person who marries a woman for money is a fool and an idiot, as our Rabbis said (Kiddushin 72). He will lose whatever intelligence he may have had, and his children will turn out to be no good (Ibid.).

35) The lust for money creates enemies. The stronger the craving, the stronger the enemies become. If the craving becomes excessive, it will create enemies who hate one for nothing (Ibid.).

36) The more a person craves for money, the more turbulent and confused his mind becomes. Eventually he turns into a fool (Ibid.).

37) When a person is meek and humble no one can `shift him from his place' in the sense of impinging on his livelihood (79).

38) When a person conducts his business with faith and honesty, he thereby fulfills the commandment to `love the Lord your God' (Deut. 6:5) and his income will be sent him without worry and toil (93; 210).

39) Business activity is wholly Torah. Therefore during the time a person spends on his work he should bind his thoughts to Torah alone, and in particular to the laws which are clothed within the activities in which he is engaged (280).

40) A person who fails to bind his thoughts to Torah in the course of his business activities will eventually be punished by having to come before the judges in a law case based on Torah law. The outcome of the case will depend on the degree of his previous neglect. Sometimes the punishment is merely having to undergo the case at all, and the person in question wins his case. But where people have allowed their business activities to diverge too far from Torah teachings, it usually happens that they lose their case (Ibid.).

41) The time a person spends working is a time of battle. The battle is against the forces of the Other Side, and the goal is to sift out the sparks of holiness and elevate them. Sifting out the sparks is the main purpose of all business and commerce. One has to be literally perfectly honest. Every word he speaks should be true. His `yes' should be `yes' and his `no' should be `no.' He must also bind his thoughts to Torah. When he is working, only the exterior aspects of his thoughts should be concentrated on the work itself, the inner thought should be bound to Torah. Through this he can sift and elevate many fallen holy sparks. All the worlds are elevated and awesome tikkunim are achieved, just as they are through prayer (Ibid.).

42) The craving for money is one of the three temptations which flaw and spoil the fear of God which is latent in the heart. But when we celebrate the festival of Pesach with the appropriate honour we can cleanse ourselves of the craving for money and attain true fear, prophetic inspiration and prayer (Likutey Moharan II, l:4,5).

43) A person who wants to provide for those who are dependent upon him must be a person of strength and fortitude, not the opposite. A certain amount of authority and `push' is required in order to earn money (7:10).

44) There is a certain sin which causes people to fall into debt. [Rabbi Nachman never revealed which sin.] A person who is in debt should repent wholeheartedly and plead with God to cleanse him of this sin. The time to do this is when he is in a state of expanded consciousness (Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom 112).

45) When a person has such joy from Torah and mitzvoth that he literally dances for joy, his material affairs are elevated (Likutey Moharan II, 81).

46) The only purpose in this world is to draw closer to the ultimate goal, which is the World to Come. Whether you have money or you don't, don't worry about it, because if you do you will surely waste away your days, regardless of whether you actually make any money or not. This world is completely deceptive. It constantly makes people think they are gaining, but in the end it is all an illusion, as everybody knows very well at heart. Even if you do become rich, eventually you will be taken away from your money. It is a basic rule that man and money cannot remain together. Either the money is taken from the man or the man is taken from the money. In all of human history there has never been a case where a person stayed with his money. It may be hard to achieve very much in serving God. But even if you don't seem to get very far in this, you should still understand that in itself this world is nothing. Your one aim and desire should be to reach the ultimate goal of the World to Come. You should always long to do what God wants. The desire itself is very precious. The main thing is your will. Whatever good you can do -- a good deed here, learning some Torah or saying a prayer there -- all the better. Do as much as you can while you can, because the only thing that will be left of all your labor in this world will be your will to do good and whatever holy deeds you were able to snatch in this world while you were here (Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom 51).

47) Keep in mind the words of the Tzaddikim. Don't deceive yourself, and don't let the world deceive you. In this world nobody ends up well. The only good you will enjoy is the good you take with you to enjoy in the eternal world (Ibid.).

Online English translation of Likutey Etzot
A compendium of Rabbi Nachman's practical teachings on spiritual growth and devotion.
© AZAMRA INSTITUTE 5766 / 2006